How an iPad Can Be Your Most Important Job Site Tool

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You're wondering how an iPad could be more valuable than other tools your crews use on the job site, huh?

I've been a proponent for job site technology for a LONG time. I remember buying my own iPad to use on a project because the company wouldn't buy me one. Once they started seeing just how valuable it was to invest in this relatively cheap device, EVERYONE had one.

Every manager's concern is this: it's going to be a toy. My team is going to play with it during meetings and watch Youtube all day at their desks.

And my answer: Give me a break. If that's all they wanted to do, they're going to do it whether or not they have an iPad. ALSO: perhaps it's time to reevaluate your team, because it sounds like you have trouble trusting them, which is a whole different issue.


You don't need anything fancy to get started and see the benefits of an iPad on the job site.

I've bought every single iPad I've ever owned (and iPhones and laptops, for that matter!) on eBay. It's probably the best deal you'll find. Another great option, though is Amazon. You can also check sites like or Apple's Clearance & Refurbished online store. Craigslist can also work.

Don't over think it. It doesn't have to be brand new, or even the newest model. It probably doesn't need cellular service (you can find WIFI everywhere). It doesn't need a huge hard drive - 16GB is plenty for most projects.

If I was buying one today, I'd buy this one.

You'll also want a decent case. Nothing is going to protect it from a truck rolling over it. You just need something for a little dirt, wet hands and a little drop. I've had lots of luck with this LifeProof case. But if you're looking for something a little more rugged, Otterbox Defender is a popular choice as well.

So, let's get a recap:

  • iPad Air: $295
  • Case: $22


In a previous post, we put together a list of our favorite apps. So you can start there.

In general, here's what you need:

  1. A PDF reader. You'll put your scope documents or contract on the iPad as well as any specifications, standards, reference material, test reports, work plans, and company policies. This ALONE makes it worth the initial cost of the iPad. I can't tell you how many time I referenced our own safety manual using my iPad. Can't remember what the rule for utility locates is? BOOM - pull out the iPad and you don't have to guess!
  2. Access to files. There are lots of options for this, but you basically want to be able to access any file storage your team is using. Maybe it's Dropbox, maybe it's Google Drive. Or maybe it's a different cloud-based server. There are apps for all of them.
  3. Any mobile apps for software you're already using. For example, if your project is using something like Plangrid or Procore, get the mobile app. Often times, I find the mobile apps to be more user friendly and simpler than the web-based versions of software.


Putting iPad in the field is a legitimate investment. There are a few different ways you'll see a return on that investment.

Time Savings. Every time they pull that iPad out, consider it a a trip to the truck or office. They're looking for the specs or drawings. And without an iPad, they'd lose at least 30 minutes walking across the job site.

Risk Mitigation. What happens when the Foreman can't remember if it was 36" or 32"? They guess. Those four inches could cost your company money. Or better yet, this iPad could save a life. We always had VERY strict utility locating policies. Can't remember what the locate interval is? Pull out the iPad.

Eliminate Rework. I was on a new job. We were installing some underground conduits. It was a design-build job. The design team updated some drawings over night that changed how many conduits we needed to install. LUCKILY, I made one last check before pouring concrete and saw the change. We estimated that it would have cost us approx. $25k in rework if that change wasn't caught. Instead, it cost $100 in extra pipe.

Let's summarize:

iPad + Case + Software: $347

Time savings (30 minutes * 5 days/week * 52 weeks/year * $40/hour): $5,200

Savings one rework incident or safety incident: $tens-of-thousands, or MORE!

So we have an ROI of 1,400%

Make an extra $5k per person this year?! HECK YES.

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